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School Board urged to retain and fund music, art programs

I was most concerned when I learned recently that the School Board of Pinellas County is considering eliminating the elementary music and art programs and cutting the secondary string program, along with the Florida Orchestra's youth concert series.

Music education is vital to producing well-rounded

students and citizens. It offers the opportunity for personal expression, builds self-esteem and teaches vital skills of concentration and discipline, which transfer to every academic area in a way that students enjoy. Studying music creates an appreciation for quality in every area of life and offers opportunities to explore many cultures.

I have founded two youth orchestras, in San Francisco and Cleveland, and still work with the latter. Many of the talented young people in these ensembles discovered their abilities through school music classes and would have had no other opportunity to do so. I have seen young people's lives dramatically changed for the good by their involvement in music. And many of our own Florida Orchestra musicians also began this way _ some right here in the Pinellas County schools.

I urge the School Board of Pinellas County not to deprive Pinellas County children of an important part of their education _ a part just as important as math or English or sports. And I invite your readers to join me in asking the school board to retain and fully fund these art and music education and youth concert programs at their meeting on Feb. 26.

Jahja Ling, Music Director, The Florida Orchestra

What took HUD so long?

So, the reckoning has finally come! Why did it take so long for HUD to see the discrepancies within the St. Petersburg Housing Authority? Had HUD or any other qualified person or agency taken stock in the former residents of Laurel Park being partisan or bi-partisan, this black mark would not be on the record.

I may not be a graduate of "Princeton per se," as Edward White, but I do have first-hand knowledge of the interworkings on how to run a city housing project, since I have been a beneficiary for 15 years.

Let's give some control and voice to the residents in the program and dispense with the bureaucracy. By the way, don't think White is going to go out gracefully. HUD may have one of the biggest fights yet on its hands.

And if fingers are going to be pointed now, make sure you have more than 10 fingers to point at all the crooked ones!

Delores Jackson, St. Petersburg

Not necessarily the right step

Re: Health insurance plan has widespread support.

The Feb. 5 article by Charlotte Sutton about the bill known as the Employee Health Care Access Act drew my attention. Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher and Rep. Jack Ascherl feel this bill is a step in the right direction. Not necessarily.

I have many questions and it seems to me that it falls far short of making available access to quality health care for many Floridians. Politically, economically, morally and ethically, this bill is in quicksand. What about the other 11-million Floridians? What about the employers who have fewer than three employees in this time of recession? If they get coverage, the premiums would go out of sight for small employer coverages (the group is not large enough to cover such high losses). What about the people who have pre-existing conditions?

This bill is devastating to middle-class people. We need coverage for every man, woman and child in this state as well as our nation. Listen to the pain and suffering, the people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, those who have even committed suicide when illness has befallen them. The longer we wait, the more people will suffer and die.

We are being deceived when State Rep. Jack Ascherl, D-Smyrna Beach, the bill's chief House sponsor, says, "Our driving force is to solve the problem of the 2.2-million," and it certainly does not "do it all" even if you think it's a step in the right direction.

Reconsider _ integrate House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 92 into this driving force _ that would be a step in the right direction. HB 1 and SB 92 are supported by 7-million Floridians and backed by the AARP, AFL-CIO, UAW, Nurses' Association, Gray Panthers, American College of Physicians, American Postal Workers Union, Communications Workers of America, Florida State Council of Senior Citizens, National Association of Machinists, Physicians for National Health and some 200 more organizations.

If you don't see the blinking light at the end of the tunnel for HB 1 and SB 92 for 1992, I fear it will be too late for you, your children and grandchildren as well as mine. HB 1 and SB 92 are our only chance for fair and equitable health-care access for all Floridians. For more information, call (800) HB1-SB92.

Harvey Kirby, St. Petersburg

This is professionalism?

Re: Chiles names son's associate to $82,500 administration job, Feb. 7.

Is it any wonder why one questions raising taxes and our governor's drive for $1.7-billion in tax increases when we read that he has named his son's associate to an $82,500 administration job? According to Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay, in this same news report, " we are a group of professionals and we've gotten our act together." Some professionalism!

I sincerely hope the St. Petersburg Times expends the same amount of scrutiny to this extravagance as it did to endorse Lawton Chiles for governor.

D. Guilford, Dunedin

Cause for celebration

Feb. 16 marks the 74th anniversary of the 1918 declaration of Lithuanian independence. It will be the first time in 51 years that this anniversary will be a cause for celebration and not just a solemn observance, since this will be the first time since the Soviet invasion in 1940 that Lithuania exists as a truly independent member of the family of nations.

Independence has not come without a price, however. Lithuania, as well as Latvia and Estonia, is hard-pressed to rebuild its economics and learn the ways of democracy before its people can enjoy peace and prosperity. This is true throughout all of Eastern Europe, especially in the former Soviet republics. However, the Baltic states have one additional burden that not only interferes with the development of their governments and societies but poses a continued threat to their existence: In Lithuania alone, there are still over 80,000 former Red Army troops stationed at bases throughout the republic. More are stationed in Estonia and Latvia.

It's one thing to kick an intruder out of your house, one who held you at gunpoint while he ransacked your possessions, insulted you and ordered you about. Boot him out the door and you feel you can breathe freely again. It's quite different when you find that your former captor has left his pit bull chained in your front yard. And the dog is hungry.

It's in the interest of European peace, not only for those troops to be removed from the Baltic nations, but for the soldiers to be demobilized and for their weapons to be destroyed. Better yet, build them homes in Russia; let Ukraine take its own Ukrainian sons back; use the aid pouring into the CIS; give them an education and jobs _ an answer must be found.

If the U.S. government would take the lead on this issue, not only would the Baltic people be allowed to pursue their peaceful course toward achieving full democratic values, not only would the status of those soldiers be resolved with dignity and understanding, but the world would be more at ease. With the resources now being spent in the West to counter that fraction of the armed might of our former enemy freed for other pursuits, the world might even be a better place in which to live.

Vytautas Budrionis, chairman of Lithuanian

American Community, St. Petersburg chapter

Billboard vote upcoming

The Pinellas County Commission will vote at the Feb. 18 meeting to establish new billboard regulations for unincorporated areas. We urge the commissioners to vote to curb the blight of unsightly signs along county roadways.

Recently we visited Boca Raton where there isn't an unsightly billboard to be found. Instead, adorning the beautiful landscape is newly-completed Mizner Park. The architecture, colors and center green with gazebos and benches are simply stunning _ a marvelous example and inspiration for anyone involved in the renovation of Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

Eliminating the visual pollution of billboards should be an important first step for our county.

Tess Cammack, Harbor Bluffs

Letters to the editor often complain about signs in general. There's not much chance for businesses if they can't have sufficient signage to identify themselves to potential customers. These letters seem to be against "commercialism" and commerce, period.

Tourists and travelers have consistently supported signage for their traveling needs, especially those in Florida.

Good regulation comes from citizen-government cooperation. The Pinellas County Commission has the ability to make decisions that reflect thought, consideration and an understanding that a vocal minority shouldn't steer them from their mission _ good regulation.

The County Commission asked the mayors to attempt to deliver a comprehensive sign code that was countywide. They failed to do that and so changed their goal to "minimum standards." Now there are still 24 different sign codes in Pinellas.

The PEDC and a committee of interested citizens have an excellent comprehensive code that was presented to the county administrator over a year ago. Let's hope he shares that with the County Commission.

S. Wayne Mock, Vice President/General Manager,

Patrick Media Group Inc., Clearwater

CBS coverage of Olympics hit

Re: CBS coverage of 1992 Winter Olympic games.

Care for a few moments of sports with your commercials? Jeez! Give me a break! And the really pathetic thing is that they probably think we're all enjoying it so much!

Linda Davis, Largo

ABC, where are you? We always look forward to watching the Olympic games, but this year CBS coverage is so bad (in comparison to ABC) that it's not worth watching. At the opening ceremonies, especially, they kept focusing on only a few certain individuals to the point of embarrassment, but left out entire countries such as Lithuania and Latvia _ and in their place had commercials. It's very painful for every Lithuanian and Latvian, after having suffered for 50 years under a bloody communist regime and finally regaining their independence and taking part in the Olympics, not to be able to see their athletes at least carry in their country's flag.

So, CBS, if you can't do it right, let somebody else do it.

Kostas Maciulis, Spring Hill

I've been watching the Olympics on TV. I see that Suburu is the official car of the U.S. ski team. I wonder what George and the "Big Three" think of that?

R. Backer, Clearwater

Bankruptcy close at hand?

I have a very deep concern about our national debt.

At the rate it is going, I may still be around to see our country go into bankruptcy. (I'm 80.)

Charles Rosboril, Spring Hill

Dump the bottle bill

With all the inadequacies in the state of Florida, it seems rather strange to me that our legislators in Tallahassee would waste their time and our money on such an outdated concept as the "bottle bill." There has not been one state that has passed mandatory deposit beverage container legislation since 1983.

We already have a solid waste program, and voluntary recycling has made tremendous strides in the reduction of solid waste. So why don't our legislators address more pressing problems _ for instance, the recession, soaring unemployment, the homeless, tax reforms, funding for education, or child abuse. No, they continue to hash over "bottle bills," which would only cost high-paying jobs and raise consumer prices.

Their latest "brainstorm" is a 2 percent tax on beverage containers that will be used to enhance recycling. How gullible do they think the public is? Do we, in Florida, need yet another "meaningless" tax?

Maybe we, the silent majority, should start making ourselves heard at the polls!

Sue A. Stump, Palmetto

Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731. They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature and address of the writer. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length.

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